Vegetable compound fights hereditary cancers
A study conducted at Rutgers University found that an isothiocyanate compound known as sulforaphane (SFN) that occurs in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower may help lower the risk of developing hereditary cancers. The research was published online on May 4, 2006, in the journal Carcinogenesis.
Since the compound had previously been shown to help prevent the development of some chemically-induced cancers, researchers involved in the current study sought to determine whether sulforaphane could also inhibit cancers arising from one’s genetic makeup. Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy professor of pharmaceutics, Ah-Ng Tony Kong and his colleagues used mice bred with a mutation that switches off a tumor suppressor gene known as APC, leading to the spontaneous development of intestinal polyps. APC is the same gene that is inactivated in the majority of human colon cancers. The team fed one group of animals diets supplemented with 300 parts per million (ppm) of sulforaphane, and a second group received 600 ppm for three weeks. A control group of mice from the same strain received unsupplemented diets.
At the end of the three week period, mice who received the diet enhanced with the lower dose sulforaphane had 25 fewer polyps, and those who received the higher dose had 47 percent fewer polyps than the control mice. In addition, tumors were smaller with higher apoptotic and lower proliferative indices in the intestines of the mice that received sulforaphane. The researchers found that sulforaphane suppressed enzymes known as kinases that are expressed in mice and humans with colon cancer.
"Our research has substantiated the connection between diet and cancer prevention, and it is now clear that the expression of cancer-related genes can be influenced by chemopreventive compounds in the things we eat," Dr Kong stated.
"Our study corroborates the notion that SFN has chemopreventive activity. Based on these findings, we feel SFN should be evaluated clinically for its chemopreventive potential in human patients with APC related colon cancers," Dr Kong recommended.
Cancer is a disease caused by genetic mutation. Most people have a difficult time grasping the molecular complexities of genes and their relationship to cancer. To bring this down to the simplest level, the following definition from the New England Journal of Medicine (Haber 2000) should enable lay persons to understand how genes are intimately involved in cancer processes: "Cancer results from the accumulation of mutations in genes that regulate cellular proliferation."
The first line of defense against the many carcinogens in the human diet is agents that prevent gene mutation. Many antimutagenic agents have been identified in fruits and vegetables, the most potent being the indole-3-carbinols, the chlorophylls, and chlorophyllin (Negishi et al. 1997). The traditional dietary antioxidants should be considered only as a secondary line of defense against cancer because it is more important to inactivate or neutralize carcinogens in the first place than to try to protect the cells and proteins downstream from their effects. Chlorophyllin is the modified, water-soluble form of chlorophyll that has been tested as an antimutagenic agent for more than 20 years.
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